05/29/06 — Clinic offers mental health care options

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Clinic offers mental health care options

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 29, 2006 1:47 PM

A new clinic at Wayne Memorial Hospital is giving mental health patients a new option for care in the wake of mental health reforms and other changes that are forcing some adults to look for new avenues for treatment.

Stoney Brook Behavioral Health Outpatient program is an alternative for senior adults requiring intensive mental health support, but who don't require an inpatient psychiatric facility. There are future plans to expand the program for adolescents and later for adults with more chronic mental illness, officials say.

The outpatient clinic is located behind the hospital in the modular building formerly occupied by Wayne Area Diabetes and Endocrine Center.

Bill Fuqua, director for behavioral health, said the new program is structured to allow patients to remain at home with families. It also provides for a shorter length of stay in treatment, especially for those who might not need to be hospitalized in a secure unit, he said.

"We want to put people together who have similar issues, understand each other, support each other," he said. "A lot of focus is on having them be less withdrawn, get them out with other people."

Kim Williams, outreach program coordinator, handles assessments at Stoney Brook.

"If we think that we can help them, we'll schedule for them to come in and have an evaluation," she said. Transportation is also available for those who need it.

Through a client-centered approach, a schedule is designed to meet each patient's needs.

Patients will attend group sessions a few hours each day, up to five days a week, Fuqua said. There is also the option of individual therapy and, if needed, family therapy.

Referrals can be made by physicians, nurses, social workers, family or the individual on his or her own behalf, Fuqua said. Individuals must have a diagnosis of mental illness. In the case of those 55 years old and up, related symptoms are not uncommon, he said.

"In this population, (seniors) have anxiety, recurrent depression, a food disorder due to medical conditions, some kind of functional impairment," he said. "They may have actual depression, be withdrawn, have a loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite, poor sleeping patterns."

Many seniors grew up in an era when people did not seek help for emotional or mental problems, said Jennifer McLamb, clinical social worker who will facilitate group sessions at Stoney Brook. Facing the loss of peers, spouses or loved ones, as well as their own mortality, can contribute to the need for help.

"We're focused on how we can best help that individual," she said.

At the outset, the program will be need-driven, Fuqua said. He said his staff will work with different agencies to make sure the dynamics fit with other inpatient services and what is going on in the surrounding community.

"We're really confident that this program is going to complement our inpatient population" at Wayne Memorial, he added.

One of the goals at the outset will be education, Ms. Williams said, specifically concerning medications.

"Medications are great, but you also have this option, too. It's better if (patients) can couple that with therapy," she said.

She added that education will also be the focus when it comes to physicians and mental health centers.

"We'll also be educating assisted living nursing facilities; that's a lot of the mental health population, young and old," she said, as well as trying to eliminate the widespread stigma that accompanies mental health.

Fuqua said in addition to creating more awareness in the community, he hopes to support physicians and others who deal with patient care.

"Statistics show that at least 45 percent of the people who are in the hospital for a medical reason have a psychiatric component that's making that problem worse," he said. "We're going to try to be available to do consultant work with staff."

He said he plans to expand his role by working with primary care physicians and managed care companies, with hopes the latter will consider paying for the services because they potentially prevent hospitalization.

"There's funding out there," he said. "We'll be working with other insurances, too."

For more information or a free confidential assessment, call 731-6255.